Catalan Modernism was an architectural and artistic movement that developed at the end of the XIX century in the region. This spectacular concert hall was built at the height of this movement in Barcelona and is a perfect example of this artistic movement with fluid forms and a preference for curves over straight lines.
The highlight is clearly the colorful stained-glass windows and mosaics and the elaborate decoration characterized by rich in natural and figurative themes.
The most famous modernist artist/ architect in Barcelona was Antoni Gaudí, the genius behind some of the city’s most famous buildings and monuments. He designed the Sagrada Família, the Casa Batlló, Casa Mila, La Pedrera, and the Park Güell.
The Palau de la Música Catalana, however, was actually designed by another pioneer of the modernist style, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, who also designed the Hospital de Sant Pau, a modernist hospital building that operated until 2009.
The concert hall took 4 years to complete (between 1905 and 1908) at the behest of the Orféo society. It quickly became the premier concert hall in the city hosting a number of premières by leading artists at the time, such as poet and composer Enric Granados.
The Palau de la Música is still open to the public and hosts regular performances by leading musicians from across the globe. The mission of the Fundació Orfeó Català-Palau de la Música Catalana is to promote music, with special attention to choral singing, knowledge and dissemination of Catalán cultural heritage.
The period in which the concert hall was built also coincided with the Catalan Renaixença, a period of rebirth for Catalan pride and heritage. Wealthy locals in particular took an interest in the newly built concert hall and made generous donations to support it.
As a result of these donations and the agenda of the donors themselves, the concert hall is now filled with details that commemorate Catalan culture and identity through its choice of techniques, materials, and symbolism.
It’s also the only European concert hall to be illuminated only by natural light. The impressive stained-glass ceiling and the way it is designed allows the Palau de la Música to use only natural light to illuminate the main concert hall during the day.
The stained-glass skylight is built as an inverted dome and uses colors suggestive of the sky and sun with a plethora of blues and golden tones. For concerts held at night, Palau uses and an amazing array of splendid chandeliers and other ornate lighting elements.
The building was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997 as an example of the Catalan modernist movement that in 1997 along with the Hospital de Sant Pau.
The facade of the Palau is a tribute to classical music featuring the busts of the great composers Johann Sebastian Bach, Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, Ludwig van Beethoven and Richard Wagner.
The Palau de la Musica Catalana, as the name would indicate ( the palace of Catalan music in English) is devoted to promoting Catalán artists, but it has also hosted world-caliber musicians of the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Paco de Lucía, Norah Jones, Charles Aznavour, Julian Lloyd Webber, Claudio Arrau, Jacques Thibaud, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Jessye Norman.
How to visit El Palau de La Musica Catalana
You can always go and enjoy a concert if there is an act in town that tickles your interest, but you can also tour the concert hall if there are no concerts programmed.
You can either enjoy a non guided tour with an audio guide, which costs 10€ or a guided tour of the premises for 20€. The guided tour is of course a better option to get all the insider facts and details on The Palau, but if you prefer the audio guide and to explore freely, that is a fine option as well.
The visit, guided or unguided, takes around 50 minutes and when you are done you can enjoy a nice cup of coffee at the venue’s coffee house.